June 14, 2023
Michael Bloomberg and the TOP Page
The most basic function on Bloomberg, the “landing page” for most, probably from the sheer force of habit is TOP. And it does exactly what its mnemonic suggests it does, provide you with the top stories of the day.
From this same TOP page on 9/14/22, with the VIX at 26, year over year CPI at 8.3% and the Fed loading up another 75bps rate change, I read with great interest an op-ed from Michael Bloomberg himself. Entitled “Learning Loss is a National Crisis”, he writes:
“The latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveal historically large drops in math and reading scores for US public-school students. The findings are an indictment of school closures that went on for far too long. They also show why recovering the ground students have lost is a national emergency.”
“Based on these results, the pandemic wiped out 20 years of student gains in both subjects.”
The impact of Covid has been profound on all of us. But sadly, among the most negative of these outcomes has been the harm on education. If you were a parent that had resources at your disposal, navigating your kids through the shutdowns was difficult. Without those resources, it was nearly impossible.
Educational shortfall is self-fulfilling and its harm compounds over time. While these challenges are sure to be persistent and often feel insurmountable, there are many opportunities to play some role in helping. For me, launching the MacroMinds Foundation in 2019 provided a chance to make a small contribution while bringing the investment industry together for a day of collaboration and learning.
MacroMinds…the Inspiration and the Idea
I’ve been on the sell-side of the markets business for more than 3 decades now. If you are on the sell-side and in the client business, hosting events comes with the territory. I’ve always enjoyed building events that are part content and part social, underpinned by the idea that some component of the job is not only to bring insights and content, but also to play a role in helping your clients meet each other.
Around 10 years ago, I started attending and sponsoring and bringing clients to the IRA Sohn Conference. I said to myself, “this is pretty interesting…I’m contributing to a worthy cause, I’m hearing from some of the brightest minds in finance and I’m getting a chance to meet clients and strengthen our relationship.” This is pretty powerful. I had this thought that I would like to start the IRA Sohn for Macro.
I thought to myself, “I’m going to host a macro and derivatives focused event each year and I’m going to work with three organizations in and around the tri-state New York area that are focused on expanding educational opportunities for children and students.”
Our Third Symposium…Success!
We hosted our third symposium on June 7th in NYC as we gathered to support 3 worthy organizations focused on education. The Children’s Scholarship Fund, Futures and Options and Invest in Girls are all positively impacting students and their families. The same students who have been disproportionately impacted as a result of the pandemic. In that September’22 op-ed piece Michael Bloomberg wrote: “Put simply, the pandemic did the most harm to the children who could least afford it.”
Nearly 250 investment professionals attended the 2023 MacroMinds Symposium. I did promise some quality food and drink to the attendees, but surely it was the compelling agenda that convinced these folks to spend a day away from the screens. I simply cannot thank our 10 speakers enough for donating their time and insights to the event. To be sure, the “conference circuit” is crowded and the bar is high in order for an event to distinguish itself based on the strength of the agenda. In this context, the highly positive feedback we are getting on the quality of our recent event is especially gratifying.
Through the expertise of our speakers, we were able to secure a substantial number of sponsorships and I am proud to report that the total funds raised over the 3 symposiums will exceed $1.3mln. Since launching MacroMinds, we have now been able to make meaningful donations to 9 causes doing important work on behalf of students.
Compounding the Good Stuff
Ben Franklin once said, “money makes money, and the money, money makes, makes more money”. He was talking about the magic of compound interest. We typically think about compounding through time. At 4% interest, I am pleased to report that the rule of 72 tells us that $1 will become 2 in 18 years. With the right initial stack and a healthy interest rate, time-based compounding is powerful.
Another kind of compounding we might call “cross-sectional”. Versus the standard “time-based” compounding, this is the aggregation of effort at a given point in time. Cross-sectional compounding is also powerful. And it applies a great deal to the investment industry.
In markets, there’s nearly an impossible ground of topics to cover. Geopolitics, economics, the regulatory landscape, monetary policy, corporate fundamentals, new financial products. Risk and opportunity come at us from many angles. How can one be expected to be an expert in all of these? It’s not really feasible.
But what is feasible is fortifying your network with high energy, engaged professionals who can reliably help you wade into areas outside of your core expertise. Have a question on the debt ceiling? You have someone to call. Not sure about the pricing on a complex product? You have a guy that knows this stuff. Curious about AI? You know who can point you in the right direction.
If we have a strong enough network of expertise around us, cross-sectional compounding can really work to our advantage. We can get smart on something in a hurry. And that’s a key driving force behind MacroMinds: to provide a forum for professionals to engage in mindshare and thought leadership. Rapport building, I argue, is an almost exclusively in-person activity.
Bringing it All Together…Causes, Content and Collaboration…
Working together, the investment industry has proven capable of taking on some complex issues, both within and outside of markets. On the sell-side, firms have hosted charity trading days that have raised substantial funds for a diverse series of causes ranging from Veterans’ support, medical research, natural disaster relief and mentorship organizations. On the buy-side, hedge funds have launched financial literacy initiatives, contributed to charter schools and hosted days in which team members engage with local schools to refurbish a classroom or gymnasium. These efforts yield positive results on communities and families in need while giving financial industry professionals an opportunity to engage with each other. The benefits accrue to all parties involved, creating both good-will while strengthening relationships. Everyone wins in this context.
I again want to express sincere thanks to the speakers, moderators and sponsors that made the MacroMinds Symposium a success. And to our three beneficiaries, keep up the inspiring work!
Sincerely, Dean Curnutt
Founder, MacroMinds Foundation